Pope Benedict XVI- Angelus

On the Our Father
"Words of Sacred Scripture That We Have Known Since Childhood"
H.H. Benedict XVI
July 25, 2010


Dear Brothers and Sisters!

This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with Jesus recollected in prayer, a bit apart from his disciples. When he finished, one of them said: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus did not object, he did not offer strange or esoteric formulas, but with great simplicity said: “When you pray, say: ‘Father…,’” and taught the Our Father (cf. Luke 11:2-4), drawing from his own prayer, with which he addresses God, his Father. St. Luke hands down the Our Father to us in a briefer form than we find in the Gospel of St. Matthew, which has entered into common use. We are before the first words of sacred Scripture that we have known since childhood. They fix themselves in the memory, they form our lives, they accompany us until our last breaths. They reveal that “we are in no way already complete as sons of God, but we must more and more become so and be so through our ever deeper communion with Jesus. Being sons becomes equivalent to following Christ” (Benedetto XVI, “Gesù di Nazaret,” Milano 2007, p. 168).

This prayer also incorporates and expresses human material and spiritual needs: “Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins” (Luke 11:3-4). It is precisely because of everyday needs and difficulties that Jesus forcefully exhorts: “I say to you: Ask and you shall be given, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you. Because whoever asks receives and whoever seeks finds and for whoever knocks it is opened” (Luke 11:9-10). It is not an asking to satisfy one’s own wants but rather to keep alive one’s friendship with God, who -- the Gospel always says -- “shall give the Holy Spirit to those who ask for him!” (Luke 11:13).

It was experienced by the ancient “Desert Fathers” and contemplatives of every age, who through prayer, became friends of God, like Abraham, who implored the Lord to save the few just people from the extermination of the city of Sodom (cf. Genesis 18:23-32). St. Teresa of Avila said to her sisters: “We must beg God always to free us from every danger and to take away every evil from us. And however imperfect our desire, we must make an effort to persist in this request. What does it cost us to ask so much, given that we address the Omnipotent?” (“Cammino,” 60 (34), 4, in Opere complete, Milano 1998, p. 846).

Every time we recite the Our Father our voice interweaves with the voice of the Church, because no one who prays is ever alone. “Each one of the faithful must try to seek and can find in the truth and wealth of Christian prayer, taught by the Church, his own way, his own style of prayer … he will thus let himself be guided … by the Holy Spirit, who leads him, through Christ, to the Father” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Letter on certain aspects of Christian meditation,” 15 October 1989, 29: AAS 82 [1990], 378).

Today is the feast of the Apostle James known as “the Greater,” who left his father and his work as a fisherman to follow Jesus and give his life for him -- the first among the Apostles to do so. From my heart I address a special thought to the many pilgrims traveling to Santiago de Compostela! May the Virgin Mary help us to rediscover the beauty and the profundity of Christian prayer.

[The Pope then greeted the pilgrims in various languages. In Italian he said:]

Dear brothers and sisters, I learned with sadness of the tragedy that occurred in Duisburg, Germany, where many young people were killed. I commend the dead, the injured and their families to the Lord in prayer.

[Translation by Joseph G. Trabbic]

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